How to become a games tester
Alison Maxwell works as a games tester in Sheffield, and has the job of testing new computer games. But it's not all play and no work, as she explains how to become a games tester...
Can you describe your role as a games tester?
I test games to locate any faults or bugs in the programmes, and then write reports on the tests I've done and what faults I've found. It is my responsibility to ensure that the games we produce leave with no errors – from minor errors such as spelling mistakes, to major errors such as crashes.
I spend most of my time working on the computer, compiling test reports or planning future tests. Often I have to go back and do re-tests to try to narrow down the cause. This often involves playing one area of a game repeatedly to establish exactly what has caused the problem.
What is your typical routine?
A typical project runs for six months and quality assurance (QA) is involved from start to finish. Initially, I discuss with the programmers what they think will need testing, generate test dates and plan the length of the testing period.
What hours do games testers work?
Regular office hours are 9am to 5.30pm, with a one-hour lunch break. This is reasonably flexible depending on which projects are in QA. We are at our busiest during the summer months as all projects that are released for Christmas have to be completed by October. During this period overtime is often required.
Who do games testers work with?
I am part of a team of three – the product services team.We supply all the content for the games, such as pictures and video clips, and also provide QA (checking all the games). I work directly with the producers of each game and also the programmers and creative team. I am also in contact with our external testing teams, and I have a number of temporary staff who work on an ad-hoc basis to do testing for us.
What skills do you need to become a games tester?
You need a really good grasp of computers. You also need to be organised, methodical and able to do something repeatedly without switching off. Command of the English language is also important, and other languages are a bonus. Finally, you need to be able to take criticism. If a bug is missed, it will be your fault and questions will be asked.
Why did you want to become a games tester?
I wanted to be a computer programmer, but I am a gamer at heart and it seemed ideal for me to spend my day doing the thing I love the most.
What games tester training have you had?
I have completed a couple of part-time evening courses in computer programming.
What do you like/dislike about being a games tester?
I like knowing I've been part of something that other people play for their enjoyment and knowing that I've helped make that product better. I dislike missing bugs.
What are the main challenges in the video games industry?
Our business moves very quickly, and keeping track of everything that is happening now, as well as what is planned for the future, can be hard.
What are the prospects of a games tester?
I will be staying in the testing role for a while yet, but hope eventually to move up to a more managerial position, where I will do less of the actual testing.
What do you need to become a games tester
- No specific requirements or qualifications to be a games tester but the more you can offer a company the better you will viewed by them.
- A levels.
- Part-time evening courses in computer programming.
- Current post.
Becoming a games tester tips
- This job isn't about playing your favourite game all day, every day. You will have to play some terrible games that are liable to crash repeatedly.
- Any language skills you can gain are a bonus because most games are now translated into European languages.
Games Tester Salary
- Starting games tester salary range from around £15,000 to £19,000 a year, depending on the size of the company.
- Experienced testers may earn up to £24,000 a year, or more. Many testers progress into games design or management.
- Freelance games testers can earn very good money from home by playing and writing reports about video games. This is the best way of getting the experience that gets you into the video games industry were you can move on to jobs as a designer, artist, developer, producer & managerial roles.
How to become a games tester
- There are no specific qualifications, but some programming knowledge or experience is desirable, and a good standard of English and other languages if translating (both written and verbal) is required.
- Qualifications in subjects such as programming, multimedia or computer graphics are useful but not necessary.
- Games testers must be avid games players. They must be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the industry, including the different platforms and games available on the market.
- Ability with computers is a must, including the use of spreadsheets and database packages.
Games tester related jobs
- Computer games designer
- Internet/Web professional
- IT product developer
- Multimedia designer
- Software developer/programmer
Games Tester Pros and Cons
Some things to think about before deciding on a career as a games tester.
- Imagine playing a game you hate for a year @ 8 hours a day (and thats a good job from what i've heard) and the games only work properly as they near end of development. Each time they produce a new build (daily) you have to start testing everything again + Minimum wage (mightn't even be this if you're at home doing piece work) and long hours.
- BUT if you are prepared to do this it's a foot in the door and a lot of the people who want to do more in the games industry have gone on to do that using the contacts built up while being a games tester. I know people who started doing games testing and are now in senior dev roles all over the world (wages, taxes & life seems better abroad than good old blighty).
- All you have to do is report bugs in a clear logical manner, if you get a chance off them just ask them how much detail is required on the report e.g. from the start of game when bug happened etc. Usual things to answer will be where the bug happened, what you did to make it happen etc. I suppose if you're trying the at home version you'd record as you play so you can rewatch and type up what you did easily maybe get dragon speech software set up so can just talk through as you watch and end up with a written report on your computer.
- WARNING! I have seen the "games testing at home job" ads out there and some companies do use people doing this but you're better researching and contacting companies yourself, to ask if they do this type of work and if not do they know of anyone, as they're in this biz 24/7.
If these scam sites who want your money before they tell you THE secret of getting a games tester job had jobs available they would be recruiters making very good money introducing people to companies!
As you don't know how current the lists might be in these products and the lists in them will have hundreds/thousands of people contacting the companies in them that they're probably flooded by people applying. So researching companies by yourself you can hopefully find companies that have games testing jobs that are not on these lists. And also it is FREE and you won't get ripped off and dejected this way.
- Be prepared for your gaming enjoyment to take a hit as a result of having to play a single game all day, upto 12 hours & 7 days a week. I hear about the stacks of games still getting bought but still sitting on the shelf 6 months later still in their wrappers :.(
Games Tester Job Interview Questions and Answers
They may phone interview or not. They might just ask you to test something for them. If they do interview its usually related to games testing job interview questions and answers:
- Whats your fave game and why?
- I enjoy FPS games the most because....
- What game would you make?
- I would like to make a MMORPG along the lines of World of Warcraft as it is so vast and keeps growing and developing all the time and has millions of users worldwide.
Same job different name
Other job titles that are used for games testing jobs:
- QA Tester
- Quality Assurance Tester
- QA Format Tester
- QA Functionality Tester
- QA Technician
- Quality Assurance Technician
- Software Tester
- Localisation Tester
- Compliance Tester
- Technical QA
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